(Click on an Electric Company icon or a topic button for detailed information)
"Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is linked with asthma, cancer, heart and lung ailments, neurological problems, acid rain, global warming, and other severe environmental and public health impacts. Coal has long been a reliable source of American energy, but it comes with tremendous costs because it is incredibly dirty."
- Union of Concerned Scientists (www.ucsusa.org)
The GRID (aka power grid; electrical grid)
An electrical grid is an interconnected network for delivering electricity from producers to consumers. It consists of generating stations that produce electrical power, high voltage transmission lines that carry power from distant sources to demand centers, and distribution lines that connect individual customers.
Power stations may be located near a fuel source, at a dam site, or to take advantage of renewable energy sources, and are often located away from heavily populated areas. The electric power which is generated is stepped up to a higher voltage at which it connects to the electric power transmission net. (See also: How electricity is delivered to the grid).
The bulk power transmission network will move the power long distances, sometimes across international boundaries, until it reaches its wholesale customer (usually the company that owns the local electric power distribution network).
On arrival at a substation, the power will be stepped down from a transmission level voltage to a distribution level voltage. As it exits the substation, it enters the distribution wiring. Finally, upon arrival at the service location, the power is stepped down again from the distribution voltage to the required service voltage(s).
On average, 40-60% of an electric bill covers the cost just to get the electricity to the customer. Imagine if a $10 pizza had a delivery charge of $8 - 12?
Net metering (also known as net energy metering or NEM) is a solar incentive that allows you to store energy in the electric grid. When your solar panels produce excess power, that energy is sent to the grid and in exchange you can pull from the grid when your system is under-producing like during nighttime.
With the right size solar energy system, you can produce enough electricity to match your home’s electricity use for the entire year. However, the amount of electricity your solar panels produce will vary throughout the year. Net metering helps you account for these differences by crediting you for the excess electricity your panels produce so you can use it later.
Understanding Your Bill
While each utility company will have a their own bill there are some basic principles that are the same. Most bills will consist of five elements:
customer's usage in kWhs
rate per kWh
Simply take the total bill amount and divide by the kWhs used and this will give you the true price the customer is paying. When reviewing a bill with a customer, it is important explain the charges to them and to draw out the pain points and turn their anger and frustration into a need. You will want to drive a commitment to take action.
Delivery service charge: a charge based on your usage / demand to build and operate the equipment for delivering electricity to your home, including lines, poles, transformers and substations
Customer account charge: the minimum charge for having service available, whether you used electricity or not
Federal environmental improvement surcharge: a charge to recover a portion of the cost of investments and expenses for environmental improvements at generation facilities designed to comply with environmental standards mandated by federal laws or regulations
Environmental benefits surcharge: a charge to cover the costs of programs, including energy efficiency and renewable energy projects
System benefits charge: a charge to cover the costs of programs approved by the arizona corporation commission, including low-income assistance, customer education, environmental, renewables, research and development, nuclear fuel disposal and nuclear power plant decommissioning programs
Power supply adjustment: an adjustment mechanism to recover fluctuations in fuel and purchased power costs
Metering: a fixed fee for providing and servicing the meter
Billing: the cost of calculating and mailing / emailing your bill
Generation of electricity: the cost of producing the electricity you used this month
Federal transmission and ancillary services: the cost for moving high voltage electricity from generating facilities and other sources to the aps distribution lines
Federal transmission cost adjustment: A cost, based on your kWh usage, to adjust for annual changes in transmission-related costs procured to serve retail customers
Lost fixed cost recovery (LFCR): a charge to recover fixed costs of providing service, such as power poles, wires, and other delivery infrastructure due to mandated energy efficiency and rooftop solar
Meter reading: a fixed fee to determine your energy usage
Regulatory assessment: a cost imposed on customers of state regulated utilities to help fund the arizona corporation commission and residential utility consumer's office
Franchise fee: a charge by a municipality for aps' use of the public rights-of-way for its facilities
Coal fired power plants are a type of power plant that make use of the combustion of coal in order to generate electricity. Their use provides around 40% of the world's electricity. The use of coal produces large quantities of different pollutants which reduces air quality and contributes to climate change.
The conversion of this coal to the end goal of electricity is a multi-faceted process:
The coal must be unloaded from the train. Traditional ways of doing this require the use of cranes picking up the coal from the cars, however newer plants have the floor underneath the train tracks drop away, allowing the coal to be dropped into underground containment. Many coal plants are mine mouth which means the plant was put where the coal mine is, so the coal doesn't need to be transported by train.
Once unloaded, the coal is then pulverized into a fine powder by a large grinder. This ensures nearly complete burning of the coal in order to maximize the heat given off and to minimize pollutants.
The pulverized coal is then input to a boiler, where combustion occurs and the coal provides heat to the power plant. This heat is transferred to pipes containing high pressured water, which boils to steam.
The steam then travels through a turbine, causing it to rotate extremely fast which in turn spins a generator, producing electricity. The electricity can then be input to the electrical grid for use by society.
A nuclear power plant or nuclear power station is a thermal power station in which the heat source is a nuclear reactor. As is typical of thermal power stations, heat is used to generate steam that drives a steam turbine connected to a generator that produces electricity.
Unlike fossil fuel-fired power plants, nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide while operating. However, the processes for mining and refining uranium ore and making reactor fuel all require large
amounts of energy. Nuclear power plants also have large amounts of metal and concrete, which require large amounts of energy to manufacture. If fossil fuels are used for mining and refining uranium ore, or if fossil fuels are used when constructing the nuclear power plant, then the emissions from burning those fuels could be associated with the electricity that nuclear power plants generate.
A major environmental concern related to nuclear power is the creation of radioactive wastes such as uranium mill tailings, spent (used) reactor fuel, and other radioactive wastes. These materials can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years. Radioactive wastes are subject to special regulations that govern their handling, transportation, storage, and disposal to protect human health and the environment. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the operation of nuclear power plants.
Pacific Gas & Electric
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is an investor-owned electric utility (IOU) with publicly traded stock that is headquartered in the in San Francisco. PG&E provides natural gas and electricity to most of the northern two-thirds of California, from Bakersfield almost to the Oregon border which represents 5.2 million households.
PG&E generates electricity through its own assets and also buys electricity in markets. The utility-owned generation portfolio includes nuclear, hydro, gas turbine, and solar resources. PG&E also buys energy through contracts years in advance, as well as in day-ahead and real-time energy markets.
Listen to an NPR report highlighting PG&E's role in 12 major California fires.
Southern California Edison
Southern California Edison (or SCE Corp), the largest subsidiary of Edison International, is the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California, USA. It provides 14 million people with electricity across a service territory of approximately 50,000 square miles.
Southern California Edison still owns all of its electrical transmission facilities and equipment, but the deregulation of California's electricity market in the late 1990s forced the company to sell many of its power plants, though some were probably sold by choice. SCE still owns about half of the 1,580-MW coal-fired Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada, which supplied electricity to California, Nevada, and Arizona.
After going solar which SCE rate plan is right for the customer? Click here to determine.
San Diego Gas & Electric
San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) provides natural gas and electricity to San Diego County and southern Orange County in southwestern California. SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides energy service to 3.3 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and more than 840,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The utility's area spans 4,100 square miles (10,600 square kilometers). SDG&E employs about 5,000 people.
In 2004, the California Public Utilities Commission approved SDG&E's long-term energy resource plan, which relies on a balanced mix of resources to meet the growing energy needs of San Diego. That mix includes increased emphasis on energy efficiency, more renewable energy resources, and additional baseload generation plants and transmission capacity. By 2016, 43.2% of SDG&E's electrical power sources were renewable.
Arizona Public Service
Arizona Public Service Company is the largest electric utility in Arizona. With 4,000 MW of generating capacity, APS serves more than one million customers in 11 counties throughout most of the state, but mainly concentrated in northern and central Arizona. APS is one of the two major suppliers of electricity to the Phoenix metropolitan area (the other being Salt River Project [SRP]).
The utility company also operates three nuclear reactors. Its Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona, the largest nuclear plant in the U.S., came under scrutiny by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005 when operational problems began to cause prolonged outages.
As of 2016, APS has available one gigawatt of solar generating capacity. Approximately half is generated at large solar power stations and half at small rooftop solar systems.
Salt River Project
Tucson Electric Power
Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is an electric utility company serving southern Arizona.
TEP cutting down its use of coal and is increasing its use of natural gas and relying more heavily on its expanding renewable energy portfolio, which now includes solar, wind and other resources .
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SRP serves nearly all of the Phoenix metropolitan area. A large portion of its electric service territory is shared with Arizona Public Service (APS).
Besides the power generated at several of the dams along the Salt River, SRP owns or operates, in part, several power generating stations throughout the state:
Agua Fria Generating Station
Coronado Generating Station
Craig Generating Station
Desert Basin Generating Station
Four Corners Generating Station (owns 10%, operated by APS)
Hayden Generating Station
Kyrene Generating Station
Mesquite Generating Station
Navajo Generating Station (owns 21.7%)
Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (owns 17.5%, operated by APS)
Santan Generating Station